Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Adventures In Recruiting: Candidates Who Think Too Much Of Themselves

Over the years I have had a number of candidates who have turned down jobs because they have a high opinion of themselves.  They take advice from their friends, parents or significant others who tell them that they are far better than they are. The candidates don’t trust recruiters to be honest with them.  As a result, many of these executives end up getting their comeuppance when it comes to job offers.

Last year, I had a really good candidate who worked at Ogilvy.  She was a planner for about a year and before that had been an account supervisor.  She was making $80k, but, when they made her a planner she did not get a raise, so she had been about 18 months at the same salary.  Her friends and family backed her up when she told them how much money she was worth.

I got her an offer for $110, which was a good salary increase, and commensurate with other people at her level in the new agency where she got her offer.  Her title would have been, again, planner (the agency had no other titles for planners).  It was at a well-known, but hot smaller agency with a great list of major accounts – accounts that were better than those she worked on at Ogilvy.  She insisted that they give her the title of senior planner and she wanted $125k.  She told me that she was worth at least that much and that she would only move for the title and salary she wanted. Her arrogance showed in how she told me she was turning the job down,  “Otherwise, I will get a promotion and raise [at Ogilvy] within the next few months.  I might as well stay where I am.” I asked her who had been advising her.  The answer was not surprising:  her father and her roommate, neither of whom were in or had any idea about advertising.

I could not dissuade her and she turned the job down.  Her attitude towards me was that I was not interested in her career and simply wanted to make a placement. 

The only problem was that she thought too highly of herself.  Six months later, she had not been promoted; but she did get a raise to $90k (The $10k was about right for raises at Ogilvy – in fact, I thought it was about right for Ogilvy).  Of course at first she wouldn’t tell me, but it came out when I had another opportunity for her and called her.  Only this time she told me she would only go to a top ten shop and now she wanted $135k as a senior planner. 

This is a scenario that is familiar to all recruiters.  It happens with a degree of frequency.

I told her that I could not represent her (and found out later that other recruiters had the same experience with her).

Of course, a few months ago, she took a job as a senior planner, but at a small agency where she is one of three in the department.  There are no major accounts.  

Careers have paths and she had just screwed hers up.  She may or may not recover.

I will watch her career, but my guess is that in a few years, despite her great personality, she will have trouble getting back to a name agency.  Taking advice from family and friends can be a career killer.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Adventures In Advertising: The Client Who Controlled Agency Hiring

I have written many times that the agency fee system has put clients in charge of their own agencies.  This story shows how true it can be.

Not too long ago, I was given a fee paid search to find a senior executive to run a major DTC pharma account at a major, network-owned ad agency.  The job would be for an EVP at $300k+. It was a big, important job for the agency because it was running one of its largest and most visible accounts.

The search took several months.  When the president of the agency narrowed its search to four candidates, they then extensively interviewed with the senior agency management.  Two made the cut.  
they were both my candidates. At the client’s request, they went to meet the client.  The agency knew that this was more than just a courtesy and that it was doubtful that the client would leave the final hiring decision to the agency. After all, if the agency had a preference, but if the client, for whatever reasons, chose the other candidate, they would be required to hire their second choice.

This is the inherent danger in having the client meet candidates.

Well, the client met the two candidates.  Both were enthusiastic about the job, the client and the brand.  Their interviewing lasted several hours and they met most of the senior client marketing management people.  Both candidates commented that the interviews went well and they would be happy working with this client.

When I called the next day to get feedback, you could have pushed me over with a feather when I heard the client’s reaction.  The client loved both people, but decided that their advertising business did not require the seniority or expertise of these candidates (this was an account that spent tens of millions of dollars to advertise the brand).  Instead, they wanted someone making considerably less, with commensurate lesser qualifications, to run their business.  They felt that instead of an 
EVP, a Senior Vice President would be sufficient.  And of course with a less senior candidate, they could cut the agency fee somewhat.

This is what happens when the client is the final word in hiring.  Once upon a time, long before fees, ad agencies chose their hires based on all the agency's needs.  Of course candidates were chosen to handle specific businesses, but they were hired to suit the agency's needs.

End of story.  Thank goodness I was paid for the search.  The agency asked me to do the search again, this time for a lower level executive.  I told them I would do it at a discounted rate since it had now become a completely different search.  Another two months went by before the client approved a candidate.

The irony is that about a year later, the agency lost the business.  The new agency actually hired one of the two rejected candidates to run the business.  Go figure.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

If You Are In Advertising, Do You Use Your Client's Products?

Some people actually take a detached view of buying and using their clients’ product(s).  I conducted an informal survey recently and found that many people I interviewed actually did not use or buy their clients’ product.

Shame on them.

One of these people confessed to me that he did not know that he was expected to use his clients’ brands.  Give me a break.

A little loyalty – to his agency and client – was in order.  When I challenged him, he brushed me off.

The truth is, if you work on a piece of business you are obligated to use your client’s products if possible.  Period.  It doesn’t have to be the exact brand you work on, but it should be a product made by your client. And it certainly shouldn’t be their biggest competitor.

Back in the early sixties, my dad’s agency handled Tareyton Cigarettes, made in those days by The American Tobacco Company.  Their rule was very sensible – every employee who smoked in the office (it was allowed in those days), had to smoke Tareyton or another American Tobacco brand – Lucky Strike, Pall Mall or, Dunhill among many others. .  In those days the client came to the office frequently, so they could see what brands people smoked.  And don’t think for a second that they didn’t notice.  Every employee knew what was expected of them.  

This is true of every agency.  And while I have never heard of a client firing an agency because they did not use the client's products, it could be and should be grounds to fire the agency.

Not using brands that are made by your client is shameful.  If your client is Makita, use their products not Black & Decker or Stihl. Mostly, clients will allow ad agency personnel special, reduced pricing, especially for those who work directly on the brand.  Years ago, when I worked on JVC, the client made sure that I had their televisions and their music products - and they were pretty good.  I got a load of their products, some at no cost at all.

Using the clients’ brands may actually give you marketing and advertising knowledge.  After all, buying and using a particular brand may provide insights which might be usable.

Just remember that your agency’s clients are paying your salary.
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